People For the American Way

“Trumptastrophe”: Conviction Edition

News and Analysis

Welcome to our weekly “Trumptastrophe” series that serves to remind us of the destructive policies, decisions, and actions we encountered during the Trump presidency and the threats that he and others in the MAGA movement still pose – and to keep those moments clear in our memory as we fight to defeat Republican extremists during the upcoming elections.

This week’s Trumptastrophe focuses on former President Trump’s view that the “rule of law” only extends to those that stand in the way of his MAGA agenda. He and other right-wing figures have decried his recent conviction as a breakdown of justice – despite the clear and overwhelming evidence of Trump’s criminal wrongdoing that led to his conviction by a unanimous jury of his peers on 34 felony counts:

On June 1, 2020, Trump responded to widespread protests against the police killing of George Floyd by declaring that Gen. Mark Milley was “in charge” of a national response and threatening to deploy the U.S. Army against protesters. Then, after military and riot police violently cleared protesters—including clergy—out of the area and off the patio of St. John’s Church in Washington, D.C., Trump made his notorious walk across Lafayette Park for a photo op holding aloft a Bible in front of the church.

That episode epitomized some of Trump’s worst impulses: authoritarianism, the equation of brutality with strength, a willingness to violate the rights of people he views as enemies, and his cynical exploitation of religion to mobilize his Christian nationalist supporters.

All those dangerous traits, including a flagrant disregard for the rule of law, are on display right now —from Trump himself, top Republican officials, MAGA movement leaders, and Dominionist religious-right figures—in reaction to Trump’s May 30 conviction. Trump was found guilty on 34 felony counts by a jury of citizens who found that he repeatedly broke the law while trying to prevent embarrassing information about his sexual dalliance with a porn star from hurting his 2016 campaign.

Even before the verdict, Trump and his allies had undermined the rule of law by denouncing the trial as rigged, smearing the judge, and portraying Trump as the victim of political persecution.

When the jury’s verdicts were announced on Thursday afternoon, the MAGA Republican martyrdom machinery went into full swing. Rather than praise jurors for doing their duty and upholding the principle that in this country no person is above the law, right-wing figures attacked the judge, jury, prosecutors, and President Biden, whom they accused of masterminding the prosecution. One far-right figure accused them all of committing treason.

Trump himself denounced the trial as “rigged.” In a series of text messages tied to fundraising asks, Trump called himself a “political prisoner” and declared, “JUSTICE IS DEAD IN AMERICA! Our country has FALLEN!” Trump called on his supporters to mobilize “IMMEDIATE PUSHBACK SO MASSIVE IT WILL GO DOWN IN HISTORY!” and added, “WE MUST MAKE JOE BIDEN REGRET EVER COMING AFTER US!”

Trump, his son Don Jr., and daughter-in-law Lara, all sent fundraising emails. In one of them, Trump said the trial was a “sick & twisted” effort to turn his supporters against him. “NOW IT’S TIME FOR ME & YOU TO SHOVE IT BACK IN THEIR CORRUPT FACES!” he ranted.  Trump called the day of his convictions the “darkest day in American history!” Junior repeated the claim that his dad is a “political prisoner.” Lara called Trump’s conviction an “assault on America” and accused Democrats of “using a SHAM TRIAL to silence, imprison, and ERASE PRESIDENT TRUMP FROM HISTORY!” Right-wing media reported that the flood of contributions from Trump supporters overwhelmed his fundraising site.

We are also seeing even more evidence of how thoroughly Trump has corrupted the Republican Party—something that was already clear in the parade of GOP officeholders who traveled to New York to pose and posture outside the trial.

When the guilty verdicts were announced, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson declared, “Today is a shameful day in American history.” Johnson claimed the trial was “evidence that Democrats will stop at nothing to silence dissent and crush their political opponents”—some high-level gaslighting considering that is actually what Trump has been promising to do if he gets back into power. The Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell fumed that the criminal charges “never should have been brought in the first place.”

Right-wing Trump supporters went ballistic. Culture warrior Matt Walsh railed that he didn’t want to hear statements from Republicans condemning the verdict. “The only thing I want to hear from these people is which Democrats they will have arrested,” he posted on social media. “Don’t tell us that you’re sad about the verdict. We don’t give a shit about your feelings. We want to see corrupt Democrats frog marched on camera in handcuffs. If you won’t do that, then shut up.”

Mark Meckler, who heads the Convention of States movement to do a right-wing rewrite of the U.S. Constitution, demanded that officials in “deep red” parts of the country “bring immediate prosecutions of every Dem official they can tag with even the most spurious charges.”

Trump’s religious-right backers also rallied around him. “Jesus was a convicted felon. Convicted by political enemies,” declared Dominionist Mario Murillo. Like many other far-right figures, Murillo predicted that the convictions would strengthen Trump by energizing his outraged supporters. He invoked the Japanese admiral who planned the World War II attack on the U.S. at Pearl Harbor, who wrote afterward in his diary, “I fear all we have done is to awake a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

Speaking of terrible resolve, far-right media figure Stew Peters, who has a record of calling for political violence, did so again, tweeting, “Our judicial system has been weaponized against the American people,” adding, “We are left with NO other option but to take matters into our own hands,” a statement he followed with an emoji of crossed swords. ⚔️

It is clearer every day that Trump and his supporters have abandoned any sense of commitment to accountability, checks and balances, and the rule of law. The organizations from across the right-wing and MAGA movements participating in the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 are hoping to help Trump take virtually dictatorial control of the executive branch if he is elected this fall. And Trump’s political operatives are promising that he will use that power to take revenge on the media and anyone else who stands in Trump’s way.

Trump’s convictions were, as People For the American Way President Svante Myrick said, “the product of a justice system working as it should, in which no one is above the law.” A former president being held accountable is a sign of strength in our democratic system. But the response from Trump supporters has also reminded us of the fragility of the system in the face of dishonorable officials. As Myrick noted, “Unfortunately, we can’t forget that Donald Trump is running for president because he hoped to escape the many criminal charges against him, and to gain the power to exact ‘retribution’ against his perceived enemies. We’re deeply concerned that he’s still pursuing this goal.”

These are just some of the reasons we need YOU in this fight. So, find your favorite way to unwind after reading through this week’s recap, and then make a plan for how you will fight back this week, this month, this election cycle.

Tags:

Donald Trump, MAGA, Trumptastrophe